Analyst: Market for caring for caregivers

By Brian Dolan
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The increasing number of aging Baby Boomers, also known as the "Silver Tsunami" could produce a "short, sharp shock" for the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS), according to Wireless Healthcare's Principal Analyst Peter Kruger, who shared his perspective at Informa's Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit in London this week.

"In the face of such a perfect storm, it makes one wonder why wireless operators and healthcare providers aren't gripping each other like two storm struck sailors," Kruger quipped. "Complacency on healthcare providers side" is one reason, Kruger said, but "the other is the complexity of the problem. Wireless health providers are fairly new on the scene," he explained.

The complexity of the problem of dealing with the demands of the aging Baby Boomer population leads to a number of market opportunities for wireless health, Kruger noted.

"Being born is dead simple, everybody does it and you can even do it at home," Kruger explained. "Dying is more complicated: There is a large number of conditions to die of or die with and the time scale is unknown."

Caring for the aging population is more complex, more disruptive for the family and can be heart wrenching in some cases, Kruger said. "Given that this challenge is so complex, perhaps we shouldn't be looking at the person who is being cared for but rather take another look at the person providing the care," Kruger said. Right now 30 million people in the United States are are caregivers. When that group of caregivers gets older, there won't be another 30 million to look after them, Kruger said. The care these care givers provide is relatively standard, despite how complex the medical situation is for the aging relative. The key activities for care givers are shopping, managing insurance, house repair and transporting their relative to and from the hospital.

"The current generation of elders retired not only when -- but in some cases because -- computers were installed in the work place," Kruger said. "When the Baby Boomers grow old they will expect these services to be used to make their lives easier: They will expect their children to go online, but their children will be mobile literate."

They won't be going through the phone book to figure out the best way to provide hospital transportation for their aging parent, Kruger said. This group will expect to arrange transport with one click from their mobile phones.

"It's not healthcare, but it is care," Kruger said. "And it doesn't require regulatory approval."